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Support voiced for Keedysville deputy program

May 02, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

KEEDYSVILLE - The Washington County Resident Deputy program isn't perfect, but it's worthwhile, according to some residents who want to keep the service and have suggestions about improving it.

Town Mayor Lee Brandenburg and the council have discussed dropping the program because of rising costs, reports of inconsistent coverage and slow response times. The subject is expected to be on the agenda for tonight's council meeting.

Keedysville property owner Rene Grossnickle said he wants to continue the resident deputy program but believes more coverage is needed on Main Street.

He said groups of teens sometimes congregate there and are destructive.

Two rental homes he owns on Main Street have been repeatedly vandalized.

Grossnickle said he has called the deputy to investigate, but the damages continue.

"His hands are tied. He comes after the fact and is not around to see it happen," he said.

Grossnickle said the incidents have increased recently.

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"When I first came to town in 1980, it was just sporadic," he said. Since then the incidents have increased at night and during the summer months, he said.

Tina Hartle, who lives on South Main Street, said teens occasionally get rowdy in the alley near the Keedysville Country Store, 2 N. Main St.

"The activity is around 8 and 9 p.m. - that's when we need to see police patrolling," she said.

The deputy is also needed to curb a continuing speeding problem through town, said six-year resident Phil Slack.

"We should keep him. They way the world is today you need someone on guard," Coffman Farms Road resident Della Long said.

The towns of Keedysville and Sharpsburg share police coverage with a Washington County Sheriff's Deputy patrolling both towns and the surrounding area 40 hours a week.

The deputy spends an average of three hours in Keedysville, three in Sharpsburg and the remaining two in the surrounding areas. He works five days a week with two rotating days off.

The sheriff's department said the average response time varies depending on whether a deputy is in the area. If one is, a resident can count on police arriving in about five minutes. If not, it could take 15 minutes or longer.

If the program is discontinued, residents are virtually guaranteed a response time of 25 minutes or more if a deputy or Maryland State Police trooper has to travel from Hagerstown to Keedysville, according to deputies.

The Town of Keedysville lies between Sharpsburg and Boonsboro.

"We should have an officer in this area, not someone who is hours away," said Shannon French of North Main Street.

She said she called the deputy to her home about seven years to report a prowler.

"He came in about five minutes," she said.

French's mother, Virginia, agrees the town needs a consistent police presence.

"It's a deterrent to crime," she said.

Despite repeated requests, the Washington County Sheriff's Department would not provide information about the number of incidents the Keedysville/Sharpsburg deputy responds to in a month. The mayor and council members were unable to provide such statistics.

Shannon French said she believes the $6,000 the town is paying for the service this year is affordable.

Keedysville and Sharpsburg pay for the deputy with tax rebates they get from Washington County and with matching funds from their own budgets.

Like French, South Main Street resident Anne Roy said the service is worth funding.

"I think it's critical," she said. "We need regular law enforcement through town."

She said Keedysville shouldn't be tight-fisted when it comes to police protection.

"We need the police coverage, and it's reasonable to me to pay more to get it," Roy said.

Former Keedysville Mayor Ralph Taylor also supports keeping the deputy patrolling the town.

"It's a fine program and it's handled well," said Taylor, who helped start the program when he was mayor. "We could afford it then, and we can afford it now."

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